UK retailers switch to climate friendly refrigerants

London, UK: The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has released the latest in a series of reports assessing use of natural refrigerants and replacement of HFCs in UK supermarket refrigeration.

EIA’s Chilling Facts III report shows large gains in the number of stores using climate-friendly refrigeration with natural refrigerants in the UK: the total number increased from 46 stores last year to 239 in 2010.

The first Chilling Facts survey results, published early in 2009, showed that as much as one-third of a supermarket’s carbon footprint was coming from the cooling gases in its refrigeration systems. Additionally, at that point, there were just 14 stores across the whole of the UK using climate-friendly technologies.

This year, major supermarkets have shown an improved commitment to the phasing out of HFCs and continued use of climate-friendly refrigeration. The four best performing supermarkets are Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer.

The report found that in the last year, direct emissions from leaking refrigeration gases have been reduced by more than 120,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Tesco now has HFC-free refrigeration in 46 stores across the UK and is introducing this technology in overseas stores, too. It is also the first retailer to embrace doors for food refrigeration, with 265 express stores due to be fitted by April 2011 and a further 200 stores planned in 2011.

Marks & Spencer has made significant reductions in the leakages from its equipment, and despite currently using hybrid systems containing small amounts of HFCs, has pledged that all new stores will have totally HFC-free refrigeration.

The Co-operative Group and Morrisons have committed to using HFC-free systems in all stand-alone refrigeration. Lidl has committed to using HFC-free technology in all freezer cabinets and in all new distribution centres, and Iceland is finally trialling HFC-free equipment.

The Chilling Facts group found that a continued lack of standardisation in training programmes has continued to create problems, slowing down the introduction of climate-friendly technologies. One of the problems is that engineers are being forced to attend courses run by individual retailers even if they have relevant qualifications from another organisation – suggesting the need for harmonisation throughout training initiatives.

However, since 2007, the number of suitably trained engineers has increased considerably as retailers have worked to set up and support training initiatives to address industry demand.